Awesome is a word I use at least a dozen times a day. But for the first time, in a long time, while rowing past the marble rocks that rise 100ft on either side of me at Bhedaghat, I am actually struck by awe.
One of the few water bodies in the country that flows from east to west, the Narmada forms a natural border between North and South India, cutting across Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Having carved a natural path over the years through soft marble rock, the river flows peacefully across the gorge and eventually tumbles into the powerful Dhuandhar Falls, an apt name for the hazy illusion created by the sheer force of the water. Before getting into the boat, I’d had to ride a ropeway, a simplified version of a cable car, from my hotel to the point where the rocks rise. As I clung to the sides of the swaying contraption, below me, the river gushed over rocks and thundered into the falls. The energy was high, yet the effect was calm.
Back in the boat, Rajesh, my guide, points out the faces of Parvati, Shiva and countless other Hindu gods and goddesses within the rock formations, and, almost in the same breath, rattles off the names of famous Bollywood films shot in the area. His is a lilting, entertaining script with crude rhymes, learnt by rote and recited about eight times a day across the 12km stretch of water. Warm yellow sunshine bounces off the white rocks and is reflected in the water, causing iridescent patterns on the smooth marble. Birds chirp and monkeys squeal as they dart across the rocks, coming in close to inspect us. As we float on the calm river, my heartbeat slows to normal after my daredevilry on the ropeway. I look around, the wild, roaring rapids behind me, the peaceful scene ahead, and I am reminded of how truly small I am, how little I’ve seen, how far I can still go.
Getting There: Fly to Jabalpur with SpiceJet from Mumbai or New Delhi. Bhedaghat is 25km away.